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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: GCHQ notified the Commissioners that as a result of recruitment schemes run in 1998, 182 individuals have joined the department or are awaiting completion of the recruitment process. The 1997 recruitment schemes yielded 236 new entrants. In addition, eight former members of staff were reappointed in 1998 compared with five in 1997.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We welcomed the signature on 7 July of the Lome Peace Agreement between the Government of Sierra Leone and the Revolutionary United Front. Our objective now is to help the government and people of Sierra Leone to implement the peace agreement, and thus build a framework for lasting peace and security.
We have implemented the £10 million package of assistance which my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary announced on 2 March 1999. This has included: UK military advisers helping to train the new, democratically accountable Sierra Leone Army; a range of equipment for the new Army, including uniforms, vehicles, and light weapons; logistical support and equipment for the ECOMOG peacekeeping forces; and support for civil society and government participation in the negotiation of the peace agreement. The ECOWAS Secretariat confirmed that the weapons could be imported as an exemption to the ECOWAS Small Arms Moratorium; and the UN Sanctions Committee was notified of these exports. We are working with the United Nations to support the early deployment of a UN peacekeeping force to Sierra Leone.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The United Kingdom signed the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) on 31 March 1999. We will complete ratification by the end of this year.
Whether the placement above national airspace of space-based laser weapon systems which can be used as weapons of mass destruction is in accordance with international law, whether conventional or customary.[HL4198]
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Under Article IV of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, States Parties undertake not to place in orbit around the Earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction, install such weapons on celestial bodies, or station such weapons in outer space in any other manner."
The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The initial phase of the research programme involving a preliminary toxicological study of the effects of the co-administration of vaccines and nerve agent pre-treatments (NAPS) in guinea pigs has recently been completed at CBD Porton Down. An outline of the study's findings was presented at a conference on research into Gulf veterans' illnesses in Washington DC in June. This initial stage of the overall research programme, which was primarily designed to help inform the design of more sophisticated longer-term studies, does not report any remarkable findings on the administration of the combination of vaccines and nerve agent treatments examined.
The results of the study were reviewed by the Independent Panel, which oversees the vaccine interactions research programme, at a meeting earlier this year. The panel agreed that the researchers should proceed with publication of the results of this initial study through the appropriate scientific channels. The panel also agreed to more extensive rodent studies, to be carried out at the National Institute of Biological Standards and Controls, and further studies at CBD Porton Down which will include sophisticated techniques to examine any subtle long-term neurophysiological and cognitive effects of the administration of vaccines and NAPS.
A copy of the information presented at the Washington meeting is available in the Library of the House. A more detailed paper is being prepared for submission to a peer-reviewed scientific journal and will be published as soon as possible. This information will be placed on the Gulf veterans' illnesses page on the MoD website in due course.
I am also today placing in the Library of the House copies of the Defence Scientific Advisory Council's Working Party Report on the Long Term Neurotoxicity of Anticholinesterases, together with the Ministry of Defence's response to the report. We are also placing in the Library three previously unpublished studies by CBD Porton Down, and one already published, which are referred to in the report.
The report, which is a review of existing literature and research, concludes that there is robust evidence that high doses of organophosphates may have long-term toxic effects on the peripheral nervous system; that there is more limited information about the long-term toxic effects of low doses of organophosphates on the central nervous system; and that there is little evidence that the prophylactic use of carbamates (such as NAPS) is associated with any long-term adverse health effects, although this should be further explored. We hope that it will be a useful source of information on the long-term effects of these compounds. The Ministry of Defence welcomes the report. We accept the recommendations for further research. As the MoD's response to the Report makes clear, we continue to carry out a range of research into the health effects of organophosphates and carbamates, including nerve agents and nerve agent pre-treatments. In addition to the research set out there, work is under way at CBD Porton Down to
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